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When Do Newborn Kittens Open Their Eyes?

Cats rank as the second most popular pets in the US, and the majority of pet owners begin caring for them when the kittens are still young. Today, our Ypsilanti vets provide you with information on when newborn kittens open their eyes and offer additional tips on their early development.

If you're not accustomed to very young kittens, you might be surprised by the stark contrast in their appearance compared to adult cats! They have tightly sealed eyes and typically folded ears. They cannot stand on their own and are essentially helpless. However, they are bound to develop into healthy and joyful cats with the right love and care from their mother or caretakers.

When Do Newborn Kittens Open their Yes and Start Walking

Baby kittens develop at varying rates, depending on several factors. However, most newborns typically open their eyes between 2 and 16 days of age. Their vision gradually improves during this period, although both eyes may not fully open simultaneously. At around 2 weeks old, both eyes usually become dilated, and by the time they reach 3 weeks old, many kittens can focus with both eyes. All newborn kittens initially have blue eyes, with their eye color typically settling on the permanent hue at about 8 weeks old.

Furthermore, newborn kittens spend approximately 22 hours per day sleeping. In contrast, older kittens and adult cats require less sleep. By two weeks of age, they will start crawling, and by four weeks, they will be capable of walking, jumping, and engaging in more consistent play. This stage is also when they become more mischievous due to their natural curiosity and adventurous spirit, often demonstrating a strong desire to practice climbing!

Caring for your newborn kitten's eyes

Keep very young kittens away from bright lights that could harm or damage their developing eyes. If the kitten lacks a mother's care or is not being well-cared for by its mother, it falls upon you to guarantee the cleanliness and health of the newborn kittens. Use a warm, damp washcloth to clean their faces gently, and above all, refrain from attempting to force a kitten's eyes open before their lids naturally open on their own. Remember, patience is crucial!

Issues to watch for & how to treat them

Newborn kittens can develop a crust on their eyes that prevents them from opening. This is a common problem that a bacterial or viral infection can cause; yet another reason to ensure that your kittens' bedding and shared areas are clean and hygienic to stop infections from reoccurring or spreading to littermates. If kittens' eyes develop this matted crust, try gently cleaning their eyes with a cotton ball dampened with warm, clean water. Avoid soap entirely! If your kittens' eyes show no improvement or worsen, call your vet immediately to ensure they receive care.

Other newborn kitten care tips

Newborn kittens, much like newborn human babies, primarily spend their time sleeping and waking up intermittently for feeding and care. They rely on their ability to sense warmth and use their sense of smell to find their mother's belly. Their development hinges on a steady supply of milk and warmth.

Newborn kittens sleep approximately 22 hours a day, and their need for sleep diminishes as they grow older. Around the same time their teeth start coming in, typically at about two weeks of age, their mobility begins to improve. They can walk, jump, and play more proficiently by four weeks. This stage also marks an uptick in their mischievous behavior, driven by their curiosity and adventurous nature – often manifesting as a strong desire to practice climbing!

Warmth is important for newborn kittens 

Newborn kittens can't regulate their body heat, which is part of the reason that they usually pile up near or on their mother. If your newborn kitten doesn't have a mother or littermates to keep their body temperature up, you will have to do more to help keep them warm by using something such as a heating disk in the crate or a heating pad on low heat underneath a blanket in their enclosure. It would be best if you also made a little nest out of blankets for the kitten to lay in for comfort. You must make sure that the heating pad isn't too hot by touching it with your hands and providing a comfortable place in your kitten's cage/crate that does not have a heating item so they can go there if they get too warm.

You should continue to provide your kitten with a heating source until they are about 6 weeks old because if kittens get too cold, they will catch hypothermia. For this reason, their area should be kept at 85ºF or 29ºC.

Newborn kittens need proper nutrition

Of course, when caring for a newborn kitten without a mother, you will need to feed them and provide them with proper nutrition. You will have to bottle feed your kitten a special kitten formula every 2-4 hours. Every kitten is different, and your veterinarian will be able to inform you of the best formula to use, how much to feed them, and how frequently you should feed your kitten. For kittens to grow healthily, they will need to gain approximately ½ ounce (14 grams) per day or 4 ounces (113 grams) a week. Never give your cat cow milk, and always ensure you feed them the same formula. And, for your kitty to digest food properly, it will have to be kept warm.

Preventive Care for Your Kitten

No matter how old your kitten is, taking them for their first veterinary appointment when appropriate is important. Your veterinarian will evaluate the health of your kitten as well as inform you of their dietary needs. This also allows you to ask any questions you may have regarding the care of your new family member.

Ensuring your kitten receives routine preventive care is crucial. This care includes wellness exams, regular vaccinations, and parasite prevention.

Regular wellness exams allow your vet to assess your kitten's overall health and well-being, including their dietary requirements. Your vet will also be able to detect any diseases early before they become severe when they are easier and more affordable to treat.

You also need to ensure your kitten gets all their vaccinations and parasite prevention care on schedule. Your kitten should come in for their first round of shots when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, and you should have them spayed or neutered when they are 5 to 6 months old. This prevents any serious diseases or conditions from arising in the first place.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do newborn kittens reside in your household? Contact Michigan Avenue Animal Hospital today to schedule an examination for your adorable little bundles of joy with our experienced vets!

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